Today is the Iowa Caucus, an event that serves as an early indication of who might win the presidential nomination. Iowans hash it out in politically charged PTA-style community meetings to determine a winner. Only registered Democrats and Republicans are allowed to participate in their respective caucuses, but Independents – the largest voter base in the US – are allowed same-day registration to join either contest. As the race gets more polarized by party, gaining Independents’ support becomes even more important to winning in November. To hypothesize which candidate will sway Independents, we looked at the characteristics of Independent voters searching online for each presidential candidate.
Using Quantcast Measure data, we created a profile for Americans that searched for each presidential candidate, broken out by political affiliation. Our analysis included the top four candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. To map offline habits to online search behavior, we used Quantcast Audience Grid data partners: NetWise for professional data, TiVo for TV data and MasterCard for spending data.
In online searches for the four presidential candidates, Independents are surprisingly overrepresented compared to their proportion of the US population. The high proportion of Independents shows they are more actively seeking information for political candidates online compared to Democratic- and Republican-affiliated voters.

comparing political affiliations of us population vs online searchers of presidential candidates

Taking a closer look within Independents, we started to see patterns emerge for each candidate.

Trump’s Mass Appeal
Independents searching for Trump are more diverse than Independents searching for other candidates. Trump has the highest index with females and minorities – an audience that doesn’t typically index highly with political sites. Trump’s widespread coverage in entertainment outlets and more mainstream news channels may be a possible explanation for the variance.

Millennials for Sanders
Sanders, the oldest candidate in the race, indexed the highest of all candidates with Independent millennials (18-34 years old) and was the sole candidate to over-index with the 35- to 44-year-old demographic.

Clinton and Cruz Court the Higher-Income Vote
Cruz and Clinton have very different political stances, yet Independents searching for them have similar demographics – both candidates are reaching an older and higher-income audience compared to Sanders and Trump.

characteristics of people searching for presidential candidates by political affiliation
characteristics of people searching for presidential candidates by political affiliation

When we layered in offline Quantcast Audience Grid data, the patterns we started to see in voter demographics became more evident. Almost all of the top websites for people searching each of the candidates skew heavily toward politics with the exception of Trump searchers. Within the top-five indexing websites for people that searched for Trump, there were more mainstream/lifestyle websites, such as women’s interest site, media site and    
Clinton and Cruz’s demographic similarities are echoed in the lifestyles of people that searched for each candidate. People who search for Clinton and Cruz tend to have more corporate careers than the other candidates (NetWise data) and index highly on travel-related purchases (MasterCard data). Sanders’ appeal to millennials was further reinforced by the top-indexing TV shows (TiVo data) – The Vampire Diaries, a Twilight-esque show, and Big Bang Theory, one of the highest-rated TV comedies among 18- to 49-year-olds.

offline behavior of people searching for presidential candidates by political affilication

Independent online search behavior shows Sanders indexing highly within millennials. Trump searchers are overrepresented by minorities and females, while Cruz and Clinton searchers over-index with older and higher-income audiences. After the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire polls next week, we will refresh our data to see how the results of the two impact the search demographics for each of the candidates. Check back for an update.

About Quantcast
Quantcast has one of the world’s most-sophisticated data-intelligence platforms, using big data and machine learning to solve the biggest challenges in marketing. Quantcast Measure is used by leading publishers for free audience measurement, including demographic and lifestyle insights powered by Quantcast Audience GridQuantcast Advertise is a leading programmatic advertising solution for reaching and influencing targeted audiences. Learn more at

NetWise Data has been a leader in the alternative data marketplace for online and offline channels since 2010. NetWise has a digital heritage in B2B marketing; segments include everything about the business and the employee.

TiVo Research
TiVo Research, a wholly owned subsidiary of TiVo Inc., is a leading cross-media research, measurement and analytics company that provides nationally representative single-source data linked to purchases made at the household level.

MasterCard has used its technology and expertise to make payments safer, simpler and smarter for nearly 50 years. MasterCard audiences, unlike any other online audiences available, are based on aggregate consumer-spending behavior within each category, derived from billions of transactions and applied to third-party consumer populations.